GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — The Centers for Disease Control, C-D-C, says a third of American adults don’t get enough sleep. And, the older we get the harder it is for us to fully rest.

Poor sleep is linked to Alzheimer’s Disease as well as trouble with concentration, memory and the immune system. Dr. Andrew Stiehm is a sleep specialist with Allina Health. He joined us on KARE News@4 to talk about what you can do to get the rest you need.

Q. Dr. Stiehm, why aren’t people getting enough sleep? 

  • In 1942, the average American adult slept 7.9 hours a night. Now, the average is about 6-and-a-half hours. As a society, we are reducing our sleeping hours.
  • There are several reasons that contribute to the lack of sleep, but one that stands out is technology.
  • All of our gadgets, from lights in your home to screens, allow us to be “on” 24-7, which increases the demands made on us and makes it harder for our brains to shut down.

Q. How do we calm down our brains so that we can rest?

  • A lack of sleep has been linked to several health issues and it’s also linked to a shortened lifespan, so it’s important to make it a priority.
  • Turn off electronics! The blue light from screens tricks your mind into thinking it is daylight.
  • Designate your bed for sleeping. Don’t write, watch TV or eat in your bed. You want your mind to associate the bed with rest.
  • Try to create a going-to-bed routine. Whether that means turning off your phone, taking a shower, doing some light stretches or washing your face - following the same routine can help signal your mind and body that it is time to rest.
  • Meditation is also a great option. It can help you to center your thoughts and calm your brain.

Q. Lots of people love to sleep in on the weekends- is it possible to make up lost sleep? 

  • You can’t make up sleep. It’s just lost. Our bodies don’t work that way.
  • It’s important to stick to a schedule. Always go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time - even on the weekends.
  • If you’ve tried making sure your bed is only for sleeping, completing a going-to-bed routine, meditation and sticking to a sleep schedule, but you still don’t sleep well, there may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
  • And of course, it is important to remember that as we age, it gets harder for our brains to allow our bodies to fully rest. Making sleep a priority as early in your life as possible can have long-term health benefits.